Our fifth wheel and the truck

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Blue Ridge Parkway and Other Fascinating Places

Hi y’all

And it is nice to be back - even if I am hopelessly far behind in this here blog! We are driving along in the car right at this moment so it is a wonderful opportunity to try (?) to get a little further up to date with our comings and goings.

Have I mentioned that I love our new fifth wheel. I am in heaven! Wardrobe and drawers and room to put all the clothes and a real queen size bed!

Folowing on from my last blog. We arrived in Cary, North Carolina where we are having some warranty work done on the truck and we were picking up our friend, Tess, who came over from Australia to spend about three weeks traveling with us.

After some dramas along the way - with immigration in Los Angeles - Tess arrived safely and we turned our noses in the direction of a small but gorgeous campground in Balsam, NC. (Just south of Abbeville, NC). Moonshine Creek - what a beautiful campground with a creek running along just behind the fiver - mind you the road getting to it was a bit of a challenge! (Note to self: Check driving instructions on the campground website before relying solely on the GPS!)

The first day we drove along the southern most section of the Blue Ridge Parkway into the Great Smoky Mountains. We couldn’t take the fiver along this section as some of the tunnels were less than 12ft in height and we would have removed the vents and air conditioner if we had tried! New rig? Not a good idea!

This section of the Parkway and into the Smoky Mountains is just so picturesque. With fabulous outlooks and views across the valleys, gorgeous creeks/rivers and with all the trees just starting to get their blossoms and leaves it was so beautiful. We made a number of stops and Tess said we nearly killed her on one of the stops when we did a bit of a hike up part of the mountain. It was a little challenging and we didn’t go toooooo far!

We drove right through the Smoky Mountains into Tennessee and stopped for lunch in Gatlinburg so Tess was able to say she had visited Tennessee. We even took a photo so she could prove it. Gatlinburg is a really cute town and reminded us very much of Estes Park, CO, in its layout and tourist appeal of the main street. A convoy of yellow Mustangs drove through town while we were there - must have been about 30 of them. And no I don’t want one - I want a red one!!! Everyone knows the red ones go faster.

On the way back through the mountains we came across quite a few cars on the side of the road with people out and walking around. Turns out that a large black bear was spotted and everyone was out taking photos until some idiot drove through with his hand on the horn and scared the bear off. Takes all kinds I guess!

By the time we got to the town of Cherokee it was late and we missed all the attractions. I would have liked to have taken a look around but it seems to be the same everywhere we go. We just can’t get to do everything we want. If we stay in one place an extra day or two then we miss something up ahead. We just might have to come back again next year!

The next day we continued our exploration of the Blue Ridge Parkway by covering the section between Balsam and Abbeville. The weather wasn’t too kind to us with low cloud and cold winds blowing however, even like this the Parkway has its appeal. We stopped for lunch at a resort along the way and Tess made friends with Jerry, the head waiter!!!! Some people - you just can’t take them anywhere!!

From the Parkway we made our way to Abbeville with the intention of visiting the Biltmore Mansion which was constructed by the Vanderbilt family. Well!!!! $58 per person to have a look around! We decided against it and content ourselves with visiting the gate house and taking some photos of the front yard with all the beautiful tulips and other plants.

That evening we were invited to have dinner with some friends of a friend of Tess’s and had a lovely dinner and evening with Lyn and Ron. Lyn is a quilter by profession and she showed us some of her work which is absolutely stunning. We even got to taste some of Ron’s moonshine. Peach flavoured and soooo nice. I always thought moonshine would be sort of rough and ‘gut wrenching’! I could certainly develop a taste for this stuff although I don’t think it would take more than a couple of sips to put me on my ear.

Our plan for the next day was to take the interstate to Abbeville and then get on the Parkway to our next campground. Well, we did that, however driving along the Parkway was just too stressful with its narrow, winding roads with a 31ft fifth wheel on the back so while we made it to our next stop we decided that in the future we would find campgrounds off the Parkway and travel along the highways. Once at the campgrounds, we would then return to explore the park without the fiver. It worked out much better as it is difficult to find places to stop and admire the view with the fiver on the back.

Anyway getting back to our adventures - we continued our exploration of the Parkway with some side trips along the way. Cone Manor is on the Parkway and we stopped there for a sticky beak. It is the most magnificent home with stunning views down across the valley and a lake. The home was built for a family and has been turned into a rather up market gift/craft shop/art gallery. Gorgeous stuff, that, had we been living at home. I would have been tempted, however when you are living in an rv there really isn’t room for lots of things and certainly no walls suitable for art works.

While at Cone Manor we took a short hike and I was amazed at some of the fungi that were on the trees. There were so many different ones it became quite a joke when we were looking at the photos after our visit - oh no more fungus, what a surprise - more fungus, another photo of fungus!! Tess and Norm spent a bit of time laughing at me and my fungi photos!!

From Cone Manor we visited a town called Blowing Rock which was really beautiful with so many old and beautifully renovated homes and buildings. According to the waiter at lunch it is a very up market town with many expensive homes and the shops were very boutique style. Can’t wear those sort of clothes in an rv unfortunately.

AND…. Before I forget - you should have seen the size of the burger Tess had for lunch!!!! Now I have some fabulous photos and will post them on here unless I get some very good reasons not to! Blackmail?? Me???? Never!!!!

There was an outlet mall just out of Blowing Rock so I gave Tess her first experience of outlet shopping and we had a lovely time. Bank accounts took a minor beating while Norm sat in the truck and read his Kindle!!

Our next excursion was to Damascus, Virginia via Whitetop Mountain. On the way we passed a cyclist on the side of the road when I noticed he had an Aussie flag on the back of his bicycle. Of course we had to stop and say ‘G’day’! Turns out Sholto was riding a trail from Washington DC to Montana over a period of four months. Now that is what you call fit - especially with some of the mountains he is going to have to negotiate along the way. We arrived in Damascus shortly after and settled down for some lunch when who should arrive on his bike but Sholto so he joined us for lunch - four Aussies lunching in Damascus, Virginia - you wouldn’t read about it!!

There was a bike ride from the top of Whitetop Mountain down to Damascus that I really wanted to do but it wasn’t to be - never mind it will leave something for me to do when we come back!! Haha!!

Okay, so you don’t get overwhelmed with all this activity (on the blog I mean!!) I will conclude this enthralling episode of our adventures and will take it up again real soon. I promise to bring you up to date in the very near future! And don’t say you have heard that before - I really mean it this time.

Au revoir our dear family and friends. We continue to think of you often and while we are really enjoying ourselves on this almighty adventure we (at least me!!) do look forward to catching up with many of you when we return home in August.

Take care and be kind to you. Stay healthy and happy.

Love and hugs from both of us.

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